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Legislative battlegrounds see few big upsets
There were a few surprises in legislative primaries across the state last night, but only one incumbent fell to a primary challenger.
In Senate District 21, incumbent Republican David Hartsuch was ousted by Davenport businessman Roby Smith 51-48. Hartsuch, considered by many to be much more socially conservative than the eastern Iowa district’s voters, won the seat in 2006 after defeating 18-year incumbent moderate Republican Maggie Tinsman in hard fought GOP primary.
Smith will face Democrat Rich Clewell, a Davenport school board member, this fall.
In the Democratic primary for House District 66 — considered by many to be ground zero in the battle over same-sex marriage — incumbent Ako Abdul-Samad of Des Moines won by a huge margin over social conservative Clair Rudison Jr. 75-25. Despite numerous attack mailers in the closing days of the race, as well as support from the anti-gay group Iowa Family Policy Center, Abdul-Samad emerged victorious in one of the most heavily Democratic districts in the state.
Democratic incumbent state Rep. Dave Jacoby of Coralville easily defeated John Stellmach in the House District 30 primary, 88-12. Stellmach originally entered the race with the support of organized labor, dropped out and finally dropped back in to the race last week. Republicans have yet to file a candidate for the fall campaign.
In the hotly contested Republican primary in House District 8, Republican-turned-independent-turned-Republican Tom Shaw of Laurens defeated Stephen Richards of Algona 54-39. Shaw had aligned himself strongly with the tea party movement and gubernatorial hopeful Bob Vander Plaats, and Richards (who was the party’s nominee in 2008) was considered the “establishment” pick.
Shaw goes on to face Democrat Susan Banger of Algona for the seat held for 11 terms by conservative Democrat Dolores Mertz.
In Senate District 21, the favorite in the race, former Mike Huckabee presidential campaign director Wes Enos, lost to Altoona City Councilman Joe Pirillo, 43-34. Pirillo will take on incumbent Democratic state Sen. Dennis Black, who he challenged four years ago in the Democratic primary before changing parties this year to run as a Republican.
In Senate District 45, former state lawmaker Sandy Greiner of Washington easily fended off two GOP primary opponents, garnering 66 percent of the vote. Greiner, an adviser to former Gov. Terry Branstad who formed a 527 group to coax him into re-enter politics last year, is president of the conservative nonprofit American Future Fund.
She will now face off with incumbent Democratic state Sen. Becky Schmitz of Fairfield.
House District 89 will see a rematch of 2008, as Jarad Klein, R-Keota, easily won the GOP primary with 81 percent of the vote. He will once again face one-term incumbent Larry Marek. D-Riverside, this fall.
Only 15 votes separate the top two candidates in the GOP primary in House District 2. Ryan Beardshear and Cate Bryan ended the night in a virtual tie, with Bryan with a slight advantage. Whoever emerges victorious will face ace Democrat Chris Hall in November for the seat previously held by Democrat Roger Wendt, who retired after being diagnosed with lung cancer in February.
Democratic incumbent Mary Gaskill easily defeated former Wapello County supervisor Mike Peterson in the House District 93 primary, 82-17. Gaskill will face Republican Jane Hodoly, a retired social worker, this fall.
In Senate District 13, Tod Bowman, a teacher and coach from Maquoketa, easily won the four-way Democratic primary with more than 60 percent of the vote. Ed O’Neill of the Clinton Regional Development Corporation had received a lot of early attention in the race, but Bowman picked up the endorsements of two labor unions, AFSCME and the AFL-CIO. He will now face Republican Andrew Naeve in November for the seat held previously by two-term incumbent Roger Stewart, D-Preston.
In the race to replace GOP gubernatorial hopeful Rod Roberts in House District 51, Dan Dirkx of Auburn bested Don Bernholtz of Carroll 50-41. Local Democrats plan to hold a special convention to nominate someone to run this fall.
Former assistant attorney general Julian Garrett of Indianola won the three-way Republican primary in House District 73, beating out Madison County supervisor Joan Acela, R-Winterset, and real estate professional Roger Billings, R-Indianola.Billings had received an endorsement from the Iowa Family Policy Center. Democrats have not fielded a candidate in this district, which was previously represented by Republican Jodi Tymeson.